FWC requests public input at Critical Wildlife Area workshops

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is holding public workshops to share information about and solicit comments on the proposal to designate new Critical Wildlife Areas and modify five existing CWAs throughout the state. The proposed designations are part of a statewide initiative to conserve some of Florida’s most vulnerable wildlife.

CWAs are established by the FWC under a Florida Administrative Code rule to protect important wildlife concentrations from human disturbance during critical periods of their life cycles, such as breeding, feeding or migration.

In Franklin County the FWC is considering designating two new CWAs: Flagg Island and Lanark Reef. The FWC is also considering modifications to the St. George Causeway CWA.

The workshop for Lanark Reef will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on July 11 at the Lanark Village Boat Club, 2364 U.S. Route 98, Carrabelle.

The workshop for both Flagg Island and St. George Causeway will be held from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 12 at the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve, 108 Island Drive, Eastpoint.

“This initiative to create more CWAs throughout the state is not just for bird watchers and wildlife aficionados,” said FWC Commission Chairman Brian Yablonski. “This is something for everyone, and we want everyone to have an opportunity to be a part of the process.”

The FWC will use the feedback received at these meetings to help develop the recommendations for each of the CWA designations and modifications. These recommendations will be presented at the FWC’s September meeting.

”Franklin County has some of the most special habitats in the state — designated as globally important for the survival of the hemisphere’s birds,” said Julie Wraithmell, Deputy Executive Director for Audubon Florida. “FWC’s leadership on this effort will help ensure these places thrive for future generations of birds and people alike.”

Lanark Reef is a 6-mile stretch of islands, seagrass and shallow sandbars in the Gulf of Mexico. Approximately 4 acres of this site are used for nesting by brown pelicans, black skimmers, American oystercatchers, willets and other birds.

Flagg Island is a sandbar which formed off the coast of St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge and later split into two islands which add up to approximately 25 acres. The FWC and Audubon are recommending the CWA designation to protect nesting species including black skimmers, American oystercatchers; and Caspian, royal, sandwich, gull-billed and least terns.

The St. George Island CWA is the old causeway to St. George Island that was abandoned when the new bridge was built. The CWA portion of the old causeway is approximately 1 mile long and only accessible by boat. It was established as a CWA in 1990 with a seasonal closure to protect nesting least terns, black skimmers, royal terns, sandwich terns and laughing gulls. The causeway now also hosts American oystercatchers and brown pelicans, which are active both before and after the current closure period. Biologists are proposing two months be added to cover the extended nesting season.

Visit MyFWC.com/CWA and click on “CWA public workshops” to see the complete list of CWA public workshops.